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Government commissions review on tobacco packaging

The Government is to launch a new review of cigarette packaging in England to report by the end of March next year.

The DH has appointed Sir Cyril Chantler, chair of University College London partners and adviser to the Associate Parliamentary Health Group, to lead the review, which it looked to have shelved earlier in the year.  

Prime Minister David Cameron hinted in March that the England would introduce the measure in the Queen’s Speech, but plans for both minimum alcohol pricing and standardised cigarette packaging were left out of the Government’s legislative plans for the year – a u-turn that was criticised by GP leaders at the time.

To date, Australia is the only government to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products. Scotland, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland have committed to following Australia’s lead. In July, health secretary Jeremy Hunt deferred a decision until the Government had seen the results of the introduction of standardised packaging in Australia.

Public health minister Jane Ellison said: ‘Earlier this year we committed to keeping emerging evidence under review before making a final decision. We have asked Sir Cyril Chantler to undertake an independent review on the impact on public health, particularly for children.The report of last year’s consultation published earlier this year showed that opinions were highly polarised with strong views put forward on both sides of the debate. Things have moved on and research evidence continues to emerge.’

‘We know that two thirds of smokers start as children so we must continue to do all we can to encourage everyone to quit and in the case of children, not to start in the first place.’

Commenting on the proposed review, Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA Board of Science, said: ‘The BMA has long campaigned for the Government to introduce standardised packaging as a way of helping smokers quit and to help non-smokers, especially children who are heavily influenced by tobacco marketing, to never start.’

’As doctors we see first-hand every day the devastating effects of tobacco addiction and we call on the Government to make a decision quickly and to introduce this at the earliest possible opportunity in order to help put an end to a life-long addiction that kills and destroys health.’